May 14, 2017 Probably Not a Hallmark Card

If your mother is still alive, I envy you. If your mother is still alive and the two of you enjoy hanging out together, I envy you. If your mother has passed on, but you used to enjoy hanging out with her, I envy you. If you wax poetic about your Mom- how she’s always been your best friend, or how she’s been your role model, or how she taught you how to survive in a world that just barely tolerates women, and very often, not even that, I envy you.

I’ve always been envious of people with mothers like that—when I was a child, my desire for a loving nurturing, supportive mother was a gnawing hole that was never filled. Thankfully, as an adult, the pain is many years removed. Yet the brain is easily fooled, and like phantom limbs, the ache can return unannounced.

My mother was a complex person and I really never had a chance to know her—I doubt if anyone but my father ever did. He was her sun, moon and all the planets in between. Most mothers, if forced to choose between their husbands and their children, would choose the children. Not my mother. She made it clear to my sisters and me that my father would win—and the decision wasn’t even close.

Perhaps it was due to her own extraordinarily difficult childhood. My grandmother, pregnant with my mother, came to this country and married a man who was not my mother’s father. So my mother was put in foster homes for the first six years of her life, and only later retrieved when my grandparents had another daughter. My mother could be useful to them as only a shunned eight-year-old to nineteen-year-old live-in nanny could be.

Of course, I didn’t know this when I was growing up. I only learned it when my grandmother died and my mother had a breakdown in my arms.

For two years after her collapse, my mother really liked me a lot. Before that, I doubt that she liked me at all. I was so different from her. Which is ironic since I was so much like my Dad, one might have thought that anyone that was so like him would also be revered. Nope.

So on this Mother’s Day like all others, I will try to tamp down my envy.  I will be grateful for the bunch of endearing memories I have of my mother. I will give her credit for repressing her own monstrous childhood horrors and abuse and remember that she did the best she could. I suppose that’s all anyone can ever do.


  1. I literally had no idea. And yes, our mothers did the best they could, even when that was not enough. My mother was also so damaged that she could not mother me. While I remained in my home after my parents divorced, I was effectively abandoned. I hope it helps you to know that your mother was incredibly proud of you. I knew that my mother was proud of me but it wasn’t always enough.

    • I am really sorry that you went a parallel version of what I endured. We manage in some way or another, but I can’t help wondering a bit what my life would have been like with a nurturer. I remember being a student aide in junior high school and the smartest kid in school’s mother came to open school week and was talking about how each morning was an incredible adventure, and how at breakfast she worked to imbue that sense in her son. Wow! Not only did my mother not have that sense, I don’t think she ever made breakfast!!!! But she did make the best pasta sauce ANYWHERE! Too bad she never shared the recipe with anyone:( But I thank you for your post. No wonder you and I have had this connection!

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